By MATT STOUT
Posted Dec 04, 2008 @ 11:38 PM
Even now, when Ketia Swanier thinks back to her childhood, rarely both parents are involved. Grocery store trips in Europe with her mother. Getting ready for school as her father does her hair. Waiting for one to return home — then hoping the other doesn’t have to leave.
Bosnia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq weren’t places in the news for Swanier. She hoped to see them on the caller ID.
“I remember breaking down by myself because I didn’t really ever speak to my father” while he was deployed in Iraq, Swanier said. Her mother, Rosie, and father, Cornell, were both First Sergeants in the Army, now retired. “Two years. … I didn’t know if I would ever see my dad again. He was there when the war started.”
“It’s tough,” Cornell said. “And she understands that.”
The former UConn star is helping more people to.
Home now for three days to attend a ceremony at her alma mater, Columbus (Ga.) High School — which is retiring her No. 21 high school jersey — Swanier, who finished her first season with the Connecticut Sun in September, continues to promote her new foundation, Ketia 4 Kidz.
Launched in late August, the organization’s goal is “to motivate children of active duty military personnel to achieve their dreams and goals by promoting excellence in academics and sports related programs,” according to its mission statement.
Through fund-raisers and appearances, Swanier’s hope is to assist children in military installments with opportunities she didn’t have growing up on different bases and in different countries. More so, she wants to give them hope.
“I think the greatest thing about it is I’m a living example of it,” Swanier said by phone Thursday night. “I’m pretty sure being an Army brat now, or even having one parent, is really hard, harder than when I was because of the war going on. I just want to let these kids know that you can still do and achieve anything you want to do.
“People always say, ‘Support the troops, support the troops,’” she added. “Well, a lot of people forget about the children.”
Swanier’s organization is growing rapidly. She visited wounded soldiers and their families at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., in early November, and has joined Keela Carr and The Journey of a Thousand Thanks campaign, a walk across the country in support of the troops.
Spanning more than two-and-a-half months this May, Carr will trek from California to D.C., stopping at military installments to help promote both the National Veterans Homeless Support Organization and Ketia 4 Kidz.
“There will be an RV behind her and it will have my logo on the RV,” Swanier said. “If I definitely get a chance to meet up with her somewhere, I’m definitely going to do it.”
Carr first contacted Swanier through e-mail, a sign of her foundation’s growth. Since the Web site (ketia4kidz.org) launched last month, it’s received roughly 50,000 hits, her father said.
“In four days, she’s had almost 3,000,” added Cornell, one of approximately 10 family members and friends who help Ketia with the organization. In the spring, family members in Mississippi will hold a fund-raiser. “There are people out there who know about it.”
For the moment, Swanier hasn’t scheduled as many appearances as she would have liked. She’ll return to Poland after the weekend to continue starting for Rybnik, which also features WNBA players LaTangela Atkinson and Kasha Terry. She’ll likely be there until March or April in the same country her mother was stationed in while Ketia was 10 years old.
“You still have a limited number of channels,” Ketia joked. “I don’t remember a whole, whole lot but it was easier because I was with my parents. Now I’m on my own.”
But she’s working to ensure no Army brats are.